Direction: Right to Left
by: Yun Kouga
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Shonen, Gender-Bending
In the legendary past the gods battled for supremacy and cast out the demon god whose name cannot be spoken. Banished to Earth, the demon found refuge on the mysterious and dangerous island known only as "G."
After experiencing a crisis of faith, Father Olivier of the Vasaria Order decides to go to G and find out the truth behind the legends. Olivier’s journey is unsanctioned, and the head of the Order engages the dark elf Suzu to stop him. As he begins his quest, Olivier encounters Ouri, a young girl from the south who cannot speak. But Ouri reveals another side of herself when Suzu catches up to them!
Note: I’ve tried to keep the spoilers to a minimum but as I talk about key elements and story hooks there are some spoilers in this post.
The number of characters in Gestalt is insane, so I’m only going to cover the main ones here. Some of the others I’ll cover in the general musings sections.
Father Olivier, our so called hero of the story, is a fun character. He’s naive, friendly, dedicated and all ways willing to help. His personality was well defined and went well with his character design. His naivety did get a bit annoying at times, but this was countered by his darker side, which made for some interesting developments.
Ouri, the err love interest. Ouri is interesting in that she has a dual personality, as well as having a third weird personality. We first see her as a slave who is freed by Father Olivier, she’s a lot more worldly and tries to keep Olivier’s naivety in check. Over the course of the series she changes a great deal. The mysteries surrounding Ouri are just as interesting as Olivier’s.
Suzu is a dark elf hired by Father Messiah to recover Olivier. She’s the character I didn’t like in the series because Yun changes her personality part way through the series. She starts off as a determined girl, powerful, with an interesting history. However later in the series she gets turned into a wishy washy doormat.
Father Messiah raised Oliver when he was found as a baby, he’s immensely powerful, and a very determined character. His character design was interesting, and I did like the developments we get from him later on in the series.
Shazarn, a mysterious fortune teller who decides to come along because he’s curious about who or what Ouri is. He’s a bit standoffish, but loyal and has a very strict moral code that he follow. Like most of the characters he has a dark secret that will ultimately come to light.
I first encountered Gestalt years ago in it’s two episode ova incarnation, and I loved it. The manga was both a revelation, and a disappointment, yet still enjoyable in it’s own right.
One of the elements that really grabbed me was the gender bending , I’m a huge fan of these types of stories. The story does take a bit to get into, and I know a few people who started to read it but gave up when they encountered the old RPG game styled character descriptions. Personally I liked these, since I also love RPG games.
As the series progresses the story starts to get explained and the histories get revealed. Things really start to get interesting as the various characters come into their own. Each of them get some solo page time as their history is explained, and the secrets revealed. I liked this approach since it means the revelations aren’t just dumped into the story.
Unfortunately the great story starts to flounder after a while, and then it just gets lost all together and takes on a meandering approach going all over the place before finally getting to it’s destination. The problem here I think is that Yun took so long to complete the series, taking near ten years with breaks all over the place. When a series is this fragmented, it’s hard to keep things consistent and flowing properly.
For me the biggest disappointment was the way the story disintegrated. Originally it was supposedly one mans journey to a forbidden land, mixed with a sibling battle for ruler-ship. Unfortunately the way Yun handles the story is disappointing. Ouri’s siblings come along one after the other and end up getting defeated, then pretty much just disappearing.
Then Ouri does a runner after a mistake, and the story shifts focus a bit between her and Olivier, this isn’t bad, just a bit weird. What was really weird however was that when she finally returns she’s been “upgraded” and there’s no story on as to how she got the power ups. So when she stars using them it’s total confusion.
Things get even more confusion with Ouri telling everyone about Gestalt, and I have to admit that I ended up wondering what the hell was going on at one point.
When they finally reach Gestalt the story changes again, and what we get makes no sense, and yet does. The story changes and suddenly Olivier isn’t the important character, rather Olivier holds the spirit of a god who comes out and does his thing. Naturally we get the other gods involved, and then suddenly the story is over. I’ve reread the final volume a few times and the ending is still weird to me.
The build up of Ouri being a guy seems to have been forgotten, and he’s last seen running away with Olivier. Everything in the series was about the end game result, but suddenly that’s no longer relevant.
The art ranges from average to good, but nothing really stands out as excellent. The character designs tend to change a lot at times, and some of the characters look like other characters, and nothing really excited me. Yet equally nothing that really makes me think it sucks. It is worth noting that the series does have some individual nice art pages.
Viz for the most part did a good job with the release even including all the extras. There were a few points I didn’t like however, firstly there’s all the extra story chapters. I don’t mind extra stories, in fact I love them. However Viz placed them at the weirdest places in the volumes. Usually right in the middle of something exciting. We get some big build up chapter that ends with a cliff-hanger, then suddenly we’re treated to a comic scene destroying the atmosphere that had been built up. This destroys the flow of the story, and when you consider you can get two or three of these per volume, it’s impossible to have a consistent feel to the series. These would have been better placed at the end of the volume along with all the other extras.
The other thing I didn’t like was that after the first volume, Viz bleached the colour pages. While I can understand this, since Gestalt is published at the lower price of 5.99, I would have preferred to have paid the full 7.99 a volume and have had the colour pages.
Despite the issues, and the way the story flies all over the place I did enjoy reading it. This is also the type of series that easily inspires fan fic writing because of the way it ends.
Yun is famous for her shonen-ai stories, Earthian and Loveless, and while this also has hints of shonen-ai (the fact that Ouri is a guy), nothing is ever made of it. It’s also easy to just ignore that part and see Ouri as just a girl.
I personally don’t regret reading this series, I found it an enjoyable, if confusing read.